In the UK, over 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.
But the disease – that kills 4,000 annually – is often not identified until later stages, which is why it is called the “silent killer”.
New research has linked two common conditions to ovarian cancer.
The study – published in the Journal gynecology and obstetrics – found that women with endometriosis or fibroids had a higher risk of developing the dreaded disease.
8,500 black and white women were studied, 3,245 of whom had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Of those participants, 6.4 percent of black women and 7 percent of white women had endometriosis, and 43.2 percent of black women and 21.5 percent of white women had fibroids.
Researchers found that black and white women with fibroids had a higher risk of ovarian cancer — although having a hysterectomy significantly reduced that risk.
As for endometriosis, the study showed that white women who had hysterectomies were able to reduce their risk of cancer.
But black women who underwent the procedure still had an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
The procedure – in which a person’s uterus is removed – is the last treatment option for both conditions.
What is endometriosis?
When someone has endometriosis, tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other parts of the body, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Endometriosis affects around 1.5 million people in the UK – about the same number of women as diabetes.
However, many are not diagnosed until after about eight years because the symptoms resemble those of other health problems.
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary, but the most common are painful or heavy menstrual periods, pain during and after intercourse, bleeding between menstrual periods, lower abdominal pain, and difficulty conceiving.
Endometriosis can also cause people to be constantly tired and uncomfortable going to the toilet.
As stated by Endometriosis UKOther key symptoms are: bleeding from the intestines, pain when urinating and back and leg pain.
Endometriosis can occasionally be diagnosed with ultrasound, but the most common form of diagnosis is keyhole surgery.
According to NHS guidelines, a hysterectomy – an operation to remove the uterus – is rare and usually only done in women who have not been helped by other treatments and who have decided not to have any more children.
A recent study found that endometriosis is more likely to cause depression because both conditions are caused by the same genes.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are benign growths of muscle and tissue that develop in and around the uterus, usually in people between the ages of 16 and 50.
This is when estrogen levels – the female reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries – are at their highest. Although it’s not clear why fibroids develop, they are linked to the hormone.
Many will not be aware of their condition because there are no symptoms.
But according to the NHS, one in three women with the condition may experience:
- heavy periods or painful periods
- stomach pain
- Lower back pain
- a frequent urge to urinate
- pain or discomfort during sex
When fibroids grow in the womb, they can sometimes reduce a woman’s chances of conceiving and being able to carry a child full-time.
In fact, fibroids are quite common—about two out of three women will get at least one in their lifetime.
They are more common in women of African and Caribbean descent.
Since most people do not experience any symptoms, the diagnosis is often made by accident.
Doctors may recommend a hysterectomy if you have large fibroids and heavy bleeding and do not plan to have more children. according to the NHS.
But there are a number of other ways to treat the condition, including taking birth control pills or anti-inflammatory drugs.
When should I see a family doctor?
You should see a GP if you think you have endometriosis or fibroids.
You should also see a doctor if you experience symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Both constipation and diarrhea are signs of the dreaded disease.
Accordingly Cancer Research UKDigestive problems can be because the cancer has spread to the colon or because the pressure of the cancer is pressing on the affected area.
Medics there said other signs include:
- quick feeling of satiety
- loss of appetite
- Pain in the stomach (abdomen) or lower abdomen that does not go away
- Bloating or an enlargement of your abdomen
- need to pee more often
- Fatigue that is inexplicable
- Weight loss that is inexplicable
The guidelines state that if you experience any of the above symptoms at least 12 times in a period of more than 1 month, you should schedule tests with your GP, particularly if you are over 50 years of age.